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Debussy's Death

Post 1

Icy North

Hi HR smiley - smiley

I was researching an h2g2 citation I found in an obscure Croatian anthropological journal (as you do) when I found a rather odd sentence in the academic paper. I wonder if I might I'd consult your expert opinion, as it concerns the death of the French composer Claude Debussy.

The article in question is available online at

It was published in the journal Collegium Antropologicum.

The odd sentence it contains is this:

"Claude Debussy died in Paris in 1918, aged 55 from modernist music, after he had survived one of the first modernist music operations ever performed two years earlier."

smiley - huh

The paper cites two references at this point. One is the h2g2 entry A684272 (Claude Debussy – the Composer), the other is this article from the site:

Clearly, Debussy died from cancer, and not from a bout of modernist music. Or do you know different?

smiley - raisedeyebrow Icy

Debussy's Death

Post 2


Interesting, I'll have to read this. Until I saw the actual paper, I assumed there was more than a spoonful of tongue-in-cheek about the comment, but now... smiley - book

Debussy's Death

Post 3

Icy North

I'm wondering whether it was inserted by a mischievous sub-editor. Having said that, I used to work for a journal publisher, and I can't see how they'd have got away with it.

Debussy's Death

Post 4


Icy. Having the paper in its entirety, there seem to me to be 2 possibilities:

1) the whole thing is a hoax
2) it has suffered greatly at the hands of the translator

The latter, more likely possibility is supported by a number of highly dubious moments in the text, such as:

i) "Depression, anxiety and especially bipolar conditions with frequent intense manic phase were common but exclusive to composers" [suggest "*not* exclusive to composers"]

ii) Lully did not hit his foor while "conducting". He was principally a dancing master and the cane mentioned was a long staff used to mark time by knocking a beat on the floor with it. It is true that the story goes that he hit his foot with the dane and died some time later of gangrene.

iii) I have never seen a reference to Bach being a smoker. However there was a study in 2003 of smoking-related lung cancer by a Dr Peter Bach.

iv) Nor have I ever seen a reference to Handel fainting while conducting Messiah. However April 8 does ring a bell as the date of the open rehearsal of Messiah prior to its first performance in Dublin on 13 April 1742. Handel did not die until 1759.

v) Beethoven: "At the age of 44 he became deaf...". Beethoven's deafness was progressive from a much earlier age. "The relationship between joint, eye and *hut* symptoms..." gut???

vi) Berlioz1: "In 1840, Berlioz starts to fell beginning of an intestinal illness"???

vii) Berlioz2: "The intestinal pains had been gradually increasing, spread to his stomach, makes that his days were undergo in agony. Even spasms were so intense that he could barely move"???

viii) Berlioz3: "Berlioz took opium to relieve agonizing toothaches,
but there is no indication that he ever took opium to become intoxicated."???

ix) Berlioz4: "...but he was accidently slipped on sea shore rocks, possibly due to a stroke..."???

Great example of a seriously flawed academic paper though smiley - rofl Thanks for pointing it out to me.

Debussy's Death

Post 5


smiley - rolleyes


Debussy's Death

Post 6

Icy North

You're very welcome, and thank you for such a detailed analysis. I knew I'd sent it to the right place. smiley - biggrin

Yes, I now see you can attribute a lot of the examples you give to bad translation, but dying from modernist music just seems so bizarre. Which Slavic-English translator would confuse cancer and music? Maybe we'll never know. smiley - smiley

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